Poppy plague hits Afghanistan
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Poppy plants have been suffering from a mysterious disease which leaves them yellow and withered and slashes the yield of opium resin which is sold on and processed into heroin.
The worst affected farmers have said the scale of the infection is unprecedented. Yields have dropped by up to 90 per cent in some fields they complained.
Farmers are claiming that the British and Americans are responsible for the outbreak of the poppy plague but officials have strongly denied involvement.
Samples of diseased plants are awaiting tests in Kabul and the cause remains unclear.
The blight was first noticed a month ago with reports it was linked to an infestation of aphids in wheat and fruit trees. It has since been found in four provinces across the south.
Early surveys suggest half the crop in northern Helmand is affected and a fifth of fields in the province's south. Symptoms have been spotted in Kandahar, Zabul and Uruzgan.
The United Nations said the disease would contribute to a significant drop in the opium harvest from last year's total of nearly 7,000 tonnes.